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Chester County Press

Little messages of love and hope

08/19/2019 05:25PM ● By Steven Hoffman

This week, more than 100 children from throughout the region are gathering at Camp Dreamcatcher, a southern Chester County nonprofit organization that offers free therapeutic and educational programs to children whose lives have been impacted by HIV or AIDS.

This is the 24th year that children have come together at Camp Dreamcatcher. The camp combines the fun and friendships of a traditional summer camp with the therapeutic and educational programs that these children need. When Kennett Square resident Patty Hillkirk founded the organization more than two decades ago, the vision was to create an environment where children would feel safe and loved while they work through their feelings of fear, sadness, and anger. The children who attend Camp Dreamcatcher face many challenges today, from more routine situations like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend or having a difficult time in school to dealing with significant health issues—their own or those of a family member. They often must contend with bullying, community violence or poverty. At camp, the children talk about dealing with HIV and AIDS with the counselors and the staff, but they are also able to share details about many other issues that impact their daily lives.

The Camp Dreamcatcher team presents a variety of therapeutic and counseling sessions throughout the week that focus on real-world issues that many of the youngsters are facing: bullying, community violence, the need for proper nutrition and health, and the importance of making good life choices.

Hillkirk and the small Camp Dreamcatcher staff rely on a small army of volunteers, including medical personnel, professionals and community members, to make sure that the children get all they can out of the camp.

Through the years, more than 6,000 children have benefited from the programs of Camp Dreamcatcher and, much more importantly, these children have benefited from the person-to-person connections that they’ve made with each other and with the staff members or volunteers.

Each child at the camp, and every volunteer who devotes his or time to caring for them, offers up a little message of love and hope. And couldn’t we all benefit from hearing such messages right now?

Look, the summer of 2019, objectively, has been less than stellar. The news has been dominated by stories about a series of mass shootings, most recently in Texas and Ohio, when 31 lives were lost in separate, bloody incidents that have become all-too-familiar to Americans. Chicago has been rocked by deadly violence. The Jeffrey Epstein criminal case brought new and troubling revelations almost daily from the time he was arrested until the time that he committed suicide. Now, only conspiracy theories and the unimaginable pain of innocent victims live on. Fish are dying in Alaska because the water is too warm. In Greenland, about 12.5 billion tons of ice just got lost to melting.

Heat. Hatred. Violence. Immorality. Death. Impending doom. These are the things that dominate the headlines. But it’s important to remember that for every shocking incident that seems so bad, love is still much stronger than hate. Caring and compassion conquer anger and hatred. We can accomplish much more by helping each other than by tearing each other down.

You see at Camp Dreamcatcher. You hear it in the little messages of love and hope there.

All you have to do is take the time to listen to them, and to not let what is good get drowned out by what is bad.